Job losses mount; A record 6.6 million file for unemployment

Job fair specialist Kathy Zywiec, left, hands out bags containing information about available positions, during a drive-through job fair in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday, April 1, 2020. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the planned job fair where employers were to meet face to face with prospective candidates has been reconfigured to a drive-through event. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The Associated Press

Many employers are slashing their payrolls to try to stay afloat because their revenue has collapsed

Christopher Rugaber

AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, far exceeding a record high set just last week, a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus.

The job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world.

The figure for last week is much higher than the previous record of 3.3 million reported for the previous week. The surging layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April. The unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15 percent this month, above the previous record of 10.8 percent set during a deep recession in 1982. 

Many employers are slashing their payrolls to try to stay afloat because their revenue has collapsed, especially at restaurants, hotels, gyms, movie theaters and other venues that depend on face-to-face interaction. Auto sales have sunk, and factories have closed. 

Stay-at-home orders, imposed by most U.S. states, have intensified pressure on businesses, most of which face rent, loans and other bills that must be paid.